Fantastic funders and where to find them
Updated: Apr 22
10 usual and not-so-usual places to find your next find grant funder
When people think 'trust fundraising', they often think of grant writing. Of course, this is a huge part of the job - but before you can start filling out those applications, you've got to have a strong pool of prospects to apply to. When deadlines are near and word counts are tight, it's easy for prospecting to take second, third, or even forth place. But it's time to promote it. Because prospect research never stops. You always need to be building, refreshing and updating your pipeline. And if things are starting to feel a little stale, I've got some great tips and tricks to help you find your next fantastic funder.
Check them out...
#1 Grant funding databases
One of the wonderful things about trust fundraising is that there's a whole bunch of databases to help you on your way. Yes, you will probably have to pay for them, but don't be put off. Even if it costs £500 or £1,000 for a year's subscription, all you need is one or two small grants and the investment has paid off. Not sure which databases to use? I might be a traditionalist, but I've always been a fan of Trustfunding.org (now FundsOnline) and FundsforNGOs. Not the right choice for you? There are plenty of other options out there!
#2 Research reports
I love a good research report. Why? Because they list reams and reams of funders! Yes, it's a laborious job looking up each one in turn, but Google and a database subscription will help speed things up. Oh, and don't worry if the report is a little dated - the list is still a handy way to make sure you've covered your prospecting bases. Not convinced? The latest Foundation Giving Trends and ACF Research Reports are a great place to start.
#3 Invisible Grantmakers
Hmmm. Maybe they're not so invisible now I've told everyone about it, but I love Social Partnership Marketing's annual 'Invisible Grantmakers' report. Why? Because they focus on all the trusts that are (normally) really hard to find! Once again, it's a case of working through with a highlighter pen and a million cups of tea, but if you're lucky, you'll find a few golden nuggets hidden between the pages.
#4 Donor Tracker
Government and institutional funding has always scared me. Their websites are so hard to navigate, and I'm never entirely sure I haven't missed anything. That's why Donor Tracker is so great. With an analysis of 14 OECD country-giving profiles, they've done a bulk of the work for you - analysing government and institutional priorities and giving you the foundation you need to get up to speed.
#5 New trusts
There are new trusts and foundations opening their doors all the time. On the one hand, this might mean that their giving portfolio and strategy hasn't been defined, which can be frustrating. On the other, if you get in early, you might find that what they want to fund is YOU. So keep your eyes peeled, and if you subscribe to a search engine that allows it, save 'new trust' as a regular search and watch the notifications roll in.
#6 Peer annual reports and websites
It might feel a little sneaky, but honestly checking out peer annual reports and websites just makes good fundraising sense. Most charities publicly thank their donors, and this is information you're looking for. Jot down the names and look them up. You might find some funders you haven't thought of. And of course, working through a list of peer organisations is a great way to get a feel for who is funding who, the popular names, and active philanthropic organisations. Invaluable knowledge for a trust fundraiser!
#7 Conferences, events and networking
Trust fundraising can be very desk-based, but sometimes you've got to go where the action is. Get out there and circulate - book a place at conferences, join events and network. You never know who you might bump into. And if you've got an active founder or CEO, make sure they're collecting business cards on your behalf and dropping them on your desk so you can expand your pool of prospects.
#8 Membership groups
This one is really left-field, but it's a winner. Like fundraising, philanthropy is a community. There are events, forums and membership groups. The latter is particularly important. If you can find a funder membership group see if you can find a list of members. Funders! Again, it's a laborious one (I'm sensing a theme here) but it's a great way to add names to your pipeline - particularly in countries where database search engines don't exist.
Okay, so they're not technically a grant funder, but there are loads of sector-based awards out there and some of them come with cash prizes! Even if they don't, I would recommend applying. Awards are great PR. They give you stamp of credibility and very often a cool-looking logo to add to your letterhead and website. It all helps get your name out there, and when it comes to trust fundraising, a strong brand profile really, really helps!
#10 The world around you
Last but not least... I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your ears to the ground. One of the best funders I ever worked with cropped up in a Yahoo groups conversation (yes, Yahoo. Now I feel old). A friend of mine met a five-figure donor in her local pub. Now obviously, these are the exception and not the rule, but the point is valid. The philanthropic world is always changing and if you tune into the sector you can make sure your trust fundraising portfolio grows and changes with it.